UK — Airborne Forces celebrate 70th anniversary

Friends and fam­i­ly of serv­ing and past mem­bers of the Army’s Air­borne Forces cel­e­brat­ed its 70th anniver­sary at Merville Bar­racks in Colch­ester on Sat­ur­day 24 July 2010.

Coyote tactical support vehicle
British Army Pathfind­er Sergeant Mark Wright shows sev­en-year-old Ben Hunt the weapon­ry on the Coy­ote tac­ti­cal sup­port vehi­cle
Source: Cor­po­ral Rupert Frere, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The open day fea­tured most ele­ments of 16 Air Assault Brigade includ­ing The Band of The Para­chute Reg­i­ment and the Pipes and Drums of The Roy­al Irish Reg­i­ment, a beat­ing retreat cer­e­mo­ny, and fly­pasts by an Apache and a Sec­ond World War Spit­fire.

There was also a para­chute dis­play by The Para­chute Regiment’s freefall team, ‘The Red Dev­ils’. Dig­ni­taries were also able to enjoy a cock­tail par­ty in the Offi­cers’ Mess.

The tra­di­tion­al birth­day of the Air­borne Forces is recog­nised as 22 June 1940, the day on which Sir Win­ston Churchill signed the mem­o­ran­dum call­ing for a force of 5,000 para­troop­ers.

Today, the Colch­ester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade is the mod­ern embod­i­ment of the orig­i­nal Air­borne Forces, with two bat­tal­ions of para­troop­ers as well as air­borne engi­neer, sig­nal, med­ical, logis­tic and artillery units.

Merville Barracks
Cap­tain Antony Feltham-White, Chap­lain to 2nd Bat­tal­ion The Para­chute Reg­i­ment, leads a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mo­ny of the Dako­ta, the ‘gate guardian’ to Merville Bar­racks
Source: Cor­po­ral Rupert Frere, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The brigade is also com­posed of three heli­copter reg­i­ments and has par­tic­u­lar­ly close ties to the Roy­al Air Force. This spe­cial rela­tion­ship was sig­ni­fied by a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mo­ny of the ‘gate guardian’ to Merville Bar­racks, a Sec­ond World War DC-3 Dako­ta.

The Com­man­der of 16 Air Assault Brigade, Brigadier James Chiswell, said:

“Today’s 7,000 sol­diers of 16 Air Assault Brigade are the direct descen­dants of Churchill’s vision — an air­borne capa­bil­i­ty which goes well beyond para­troops and includes air assault forces deliv­er­able by heli­copter or air­craft and sup­port­ed by the for­mi­da­ble Apache attack heli­copter.”

He also said that as well as cel­e­brat­ing the anniver­sary, the day pro­vid­ed an:

“Air­borne get togeth­er before the brigade deploys to Afghanistan for the fourth time. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate in a gen­uine fam­i­ly atmos­phere and wish luck to those who are deploy­ing.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK